The Pentagon will extend military honors to drone pilots and military hackers, after a plan to give remote military personnel their own medal was scrapped, according to a report from The New York Times.
Earlier idea for medal was scrapped
In 2013, the Defense Department unveiled plans for a "Distinguished Warfare Medal" that would similarly honor troops operating remotely, but the plan was struck by controversy, with some critics calling it "the Purple Buttocks," or "Nintendo Medal." The medal was eventually abandoned when Chuck Hagel took over as Defense Secretary from Leon Panetta, who championed the idea.
The Military Times reports that, in place of the medal, the new award will be a small "R" pin (for "remote"), similar to pins already awarded to other troops. (Most of the awards may go to drone pilots, although The New York Times writes that troops working on cyberattacks will also be eligible.)
Along with the new award, the Defense Department is also expected to announce a review of how past medals were awarded, and some may be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The Defense Department will also more strictly define who can receive combat awards, which, according to USA Today, will limit the awards to troops involved in hostile situations or those at "significant risk" of being in those situations.
The Defense Department has been struggling for some time to retain drone pilots, who suffer from mental health problems at a rate similar to pilots of crewed aircraft, according to a study from the department. Last month, the Air Force announced that it planned on hiring thousands of people for its drone program.